Parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs has urged for a VPN ban.

If the government bans VPN in India on the recommendation of the committee, India would join the league of China, North Korea, Russia, and UAE in doing so.

VPN stands for virtual private network, which is used to create a private encrypted network within a public network. VPN masks the IP address and encrypts the data being transmitted in a public network or a local WiFi network. The data is also tunneled through an exit node in a foreign location, which enables a user to mask his location as a foreign one.

People use VPN due to privacy concerns and to access sites that are banned or not available in a particular country. Companies use it to allow their employees working remotely to log in to the company network from anywhere and keep company data secure through the encrypted network. India has one of the highest users of VPN.

The main cause of concern with apps and softwares that provide VPN services, is the use of the same by cybercriminals which has seen an increase in India in the recent time. Cybercriminals are using VPN to mask off their IP address and to track them, authorities have to rely on extensive surveillance methods which are often futile. Also, illicit trades are undertaken in the dark web by cybercriminals using the shield cover of VPN.

The committee in its recommendation said that the Ministry of Home Affairs should coordinate with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to identify and permanently block such VPNs with the help of internet service providers. The committee is particularly worried about the abundance of such software and apps on the internet, most of which can be even accessed for free.

VPN tunnels of large companies and business entities will not be banned, but internet service providers would be asked to block commonly used VPN protocols and ports used by these VPN services, according to an expert.

Though questions will be raised about the data privacy and freedom of the common internet users as the committee has specifically asked the government to improve the tracking and surveillance systems to keep a check on the use of VPN and the dark web as well. VPN bans in countries like China have not been 100% foolproof wherein paid VPN softwares are available to bypass the great firewall of China which blocks foreign websites.

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